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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with John Jessup, January 11, 1991. Interview M-0024. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

The goal of diversity did not trump the realities of racial disparities

In the mid-1980s, school officials touted classroom diversity in all classes as a desired goal. Yet a disproportionate number of black students continued to be tracked into basic courses taught by average teachers. Jessup discusses the significance and power academic labels had on students' self-perceptions. He emphasizes the need to provide all students quality teachers, regardless of their academic level.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with John Jessup, January 11, 1991. Interview M-0024. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

GOLDIE F. WELLS:
What about curriculum and instruction?
JOHN JESSUP:
Well, curriculum and instruction--I guess my basic philosophy was you're probably not aware of the fact but in this school system we have five different levels, for instance in English. That is how many basic courses you can be in--average courses, advanced courses. You can be in honors courses and you can be in advanced placement courses. So all of those are possibilities. I guess you could call it homogeneous group--some people call it track. Right now it is very popular to talk about heterogeneous grouping and it is a very popular subject in this school system and we are moving toward that thank goodness. But I talked about it some when it was not popular to talk about. My basic philosophy I guess in regard to what we already had in place was that we should be as anxious to move up kids as we are to move down kids and working toward creating fairness in the placement of kids, especially in the placement of kids and the concern about the minorities, so many of them, being in the basic classes and average classes but especially basic classes and the desire to have as few in those classes as we could. We eliminated one year a basic class. We did last year on an experimental basis, eliminating a basic class in biology. We hadn't had any basic kids who passed the state test and last year we eliminated it as a basic class and gave them a new name. They were average students, studying average stuff and most of those kids passed and I don't think anyone failed that class. It was a small class. Just that the name change made a tremendous difference. We had a situation in regards to social studies. The lady made a mistake and told the kids that they were in an average class and then she discovered later, the kids discovered before she did, that it was not really supposed to be and she said it was amazing the difference that it made in the way those kids responded. So therefore, we changed the class to an average class. So we tried a number of things like that in regards to curriculum but we had an established curriculum of course that you just couldn't change so the main thing that you had to do was to work toward young people being treated fairly in regard to placement and to work toward young people having the same opportunities when it came to quality teachers. Another part of my philosophy is that basic kids deserve the same quality teaching as higher level kids. Therefore, they deserve teachers with the same level of experience, same level of education and everything else so rather than having a basic class and a basic teacher, we let everybody share and the teacher who teaches the AG kids should also have a class of basic kids. Therefore nobody is going out with basic kids but everybody can come to that class with freshness and at the same time we hope with high expectations. Somehow it seemed that when you teach only basic kids sometimes your expectations can get lower and lower and lower.